Anuradhapura is the first Sinhalese capital of Sri Lanka .It is the third capital established after arrival of Aryans. This was kingdom of many kings and lasted nearly 1500 years continuously. Several ancient ruins in Anuradhapura depict the talent of the ancient architectures. By looking at those sites, you could realize the prosperity of this area in ancient times. If not destroyed by several invaders from time to time, some of those majestic creations may still in alive .There is an abundance of evidence of ancient architecture dating to the 3rd century BC and earlier.
There are 8 main places of worship by Buddhists called as “Atamasthana”
1. Sri Maha Bodiya (Ficus Religeorsa)
4. Lowamahapaya (The Brazen Palace)
SRI BAHA BODIYA (THE SACRED BOO TREE)
This is the sacred Bo Tree (Ficus Religeorsa), the second highest venerated place of Buddhist after the temple of sacred Tooth Relic in Kandy. It is believed to be an original sapling if Sri Maha Bodhi Tree under which the Ascetic Siddahartha attained enlightenment and became Buddha.
It was brought from India to here by Theri Sangamitta in the 3rd century BC.
RUWANWELI SEYA (THE GREAT STUPA)
This giant stupa is said to have been built by a great king Dutugemunu in 1st century BC, while enshrining a small container of bodily relics of Buddha. Hence this is another highly venerated object for Buddhists.
The stupa is 350 feet high and its diameter is about 300feet, and the circumference is 942 feet. The freeze of elephants tuskers) created in the outer walls around the stupa add beauty to this place with 938 features of tuskers. This is one of the best sites that tell the world about the great heritage of Buddhists in Sri Lanka. And it is another marvel of ancient architecture.
Originally this was a paddy heap shape small stupa, enshrining Collarbone Relic of Buddha. It is considered to be the 1st stupa built in Sri Lanka following the introduction of Buddhism. It is considered to be the oldest visible stupa in the world.
This was built in the 3rd century BC by King Devanapiyathissa. Later in 1st century AD King Wasabha built a “Vatadage” a Circular Relic Chamber” surrounding the stupa, perhaps the stupa’s most unusual feature enclosed the structure in four concentric circles. There had been 176 stone pillars used in those concentric circles. After the reconstructions made in 1862, now it takes a bell shape.
LOWAMAHAPAYA (THE BRAZEN PALACE)
As per the great chronicle of Sri Lanka, this was built by King Dutugemunu, was a massive nine stored building with a height of 150 feet. The building was supported by 40rows of stone pillars with 40 pillars in each row, totaling 1600 stone pillars. This was the Chapter House of Mahavihara .Monastery Complex the 1st Buddhist Monastery Complex in Sri Lanka. This name had given to it, since the roofing tiles used here were made out of copper. To build this massive building with 1000 rooms, 6years were taken and king had to spend 330 million gold coins at that time.
Ancient city of Anuradhapura had been nominated as UNESCO World Heritage site because of this Abhagiriya Monastery Complex and the Jethawanaya Monastery Complex. Abhayagiriya stupa was the tallest edifice of the ancient world, and the original height was 350 feet. And such stupa is the centerpiece of the Monastery complex. Abhagiriya is the second oldest Monastery complex which was built in early part of 1st century BC by king Walagamba. Abhayagiri stupa was originally feet high, but now it is 245 feet after reconstruction.
Abhayagiriya had grown as an international institution of Buddhist philosophy by the 1st century AD. It is being said that 5000 Buddhists Monks were living here during its heyday.
The ruins of entrance with decorated moonstones , guard stones, balustrades and flight of steps, ruins of elegantly constructed edifice of Relic House with delicate sculptures, ruins of a residential complex ,ruins of peripheral stupas, ruins of Buddhist images, ruins of urinal stones, which are elaborately decorated ,ruins of the biggest rice bowl in the world, the elephant pond
This is six times larger than a modern Olympic swimming pool, the twin ponds are worth studying at the Abhayagiriya Monastery Complex.
This is the 3rd oldest Monastery Complex in 3rd century AD by king Mahasen. Jethawana stupa is again the centerpiece of the Monastery complex and it is the largest stupa in the world. These colossal stupas are the tallest brick structure ever built by man, and it was the third largest monument in the world, in ancient times surprised only by the pyramids in Egypt. Originally it was 400 feet high but now it only 232 feet. A part of the Sash or Belt tied by the Buddha is believed to be the Relic that is enshrined here. There are about 93 million baked bricks used to build this massive structure.
King Dutugemunu (161BC-137BC) built the Merisavetiya stupa after defeating king Elara. After placing the Buddha Relics in the scepter he had gone to Tissa Tank for a bath leaving the scepter. After the bath he returned to the place where the scepter was placed, and it is said that it could not be moved, the stupa was built in the place where the scepter stood. It is also said that it is remembered that he partook of a chilly curry without offering to the monks. In expiation he built the Mirisavetiya stupa.
This is the smallest stupa in Anuradhapura area. It is said that this was built by king Walagamba to commemorate his queen Soma Devi. The ruins indicate that there were rows of stone pillars and no doubt they encircled the stupa covering it.
This is a combination of rock and cave temple. It was built by King Devanampiyathissa in 3rd century BC. The temple is situated in the Royal Park Maha Mega Gardens, close to Golden Park called Ranmasu Uyana. The sacred Tooth Relic of Buddha was exhibited here in 309 AD as soon as Prince Dantha and Princess Hemamala brought it to Sri Lanka.
At the entrance to the rock temple a large pond can be seen. There you can see some rare carvings of playful elephants carved out from the natural rock.
The famous sculpture here is known as “Isurumuniya Lovers” which belongs to 5th century AD. There is another beautiful granite carvings of a Royal family, there five human figures carved on the plate.
This is a Monastery Complex with three outcroppings of stones, which was built by King Dewanampiyatiss in 3rd century BC. The ruins of Bodhi Ghara (an open house for Boo Tree) to one side in front of front of steps. Stupa on top of the rock along with circular buildings of unknown use. Many caves & rock boulders add beauty to this place. The drip ledge in main rock is so ancient and an inscription in Brahmi letters can be seen below the drip ledge.
RANMASU UYANA (ROYAL GARDENS)
It is situated close to Isurumunu Temple and Tissa Tank. It is a best example of Sri Lankan garden architecture of the Pre –Christian era. The water was taken here from Tissa Tank and released to Paddy Fields nearby after using. This was first created in 3rd century BC by King Devanampiyathissa. In the park are various granite ponds and remains of small buildings. Here also you could see some rare carvings of a playful animals carried in the rock boulders adjacent to the ponds. It is believed that some golden fish were living in these ponds. And Ranmasu Uyana is a classic example of ancient water management technology.
AUKANA BUDDHA STATUE
This colossal 42 feet Buddha statue has been carved out from a large granite rock face during the 5th century AD. It is near Kala Weva (Tank) and was erected during the reign of King Dathusena. Some scholars interpret this as a great masterpiece of ancient artists. This statue shows ten great qualities of Buddha and his great personality.
TWIN PONDS (KUTTAM POKUNA)
This is a classic example for marvelous architectural design of ancient Sinhalese. And its hydraulic engineering system is another notable feature, the two ponds are interconnected but the smaller one had been built in 6th century AD .Built by using polished stone slabs by interlocking each other, without using any mortar or plaster. The following water is going to the paddy fields nearby, is another classic example for sustainable use of natural resources.
SAMADHI BUDDHA STATUE
Samadhi Statue is a Buddha Statue which posing Samadi pose or Meditation posture, this Mudra is known as Dyana Mudra which is the deep meditation. This granite statue belongs to 5th century AD of Anuradhapura period. Carved out from Dolomite in Gupta Style and eyes wore adorned with diamond or gems. This is a masterpiece of ancient art where the artist had given life to the statue.
ANURADHAPURA ARCHEOLOGICAL MUSEUM
This museum displays many artifacts, Buddha statues from various divinities including coral, lime stone and granite images, bronzes of Hindu divinities carved stones, ancient jewelry and even an old burial pot, visitors can learn about the rich history of Anuradhapura.
THANTHIRIMALE ANCIENT BUDDHIST MONASTERY
The history of this place goes to pre historic times yet the drawings made by the Veddhas (indigenous of Sri Lanka) can be seen in the biggest cave among the five caves here. This ancient Monastery is well known for its ancient image house and meditating Buddha statue in the hollow of a granite rock. A monastic library on top of the rock is another remarkable building in this place. Also many inscription destinies from the 1st century BC to 8th century AD can be visible in various caves stone pillars and the Monastic library.
Among 500 acres of land extent, 250 acres is a huge rock surface. Once you climb up the rock, you can have a fantastic panorama view including bluish penny plains, Ruwanweli stupa of Anuradhapura, stupa of Mihinthale, and the Indian Ocean.
This place is considered of the cradle of Buddhist Civilization in Sri Lanka. It includes temples and 68 caves for the monks to reside in “Missaka Pabbatha” a huge rock which is over 300 meters high is one of the peaks of the mountain range. You can climb 1843 granite steps leading to the summit of Mihinthale. This is the place where Mihidu Thero first met King Devanampiyathissa and preached the Buddhist Doctrine, and the place where king embraced Buddhism in 247 BC. And this is the first declared sanctuary in the world.
You can visit many caves, Aradanagala (Rock), Kantaka Chethiya (stupas), Ambasthla stupa. The Refectory, Nagapokuna (pond), Kaludiya pokuna and see many inscriptions, ruins including the Hospital Complex, Medicinal Trough, Steam Bath, ruins of the large Monastery and the archeological museum.
Among the several ruins, Mihinthale Hospital complex is the most significant place to study. It has all the elements of a fully pledged hospital such as entrance, reception and registration of patients, store house & pharmacy, OPD area, wards for sick monks around a central Buddha statue, steam bath and the medicinal trough.